Featured image artwork is by Bear Weiter and is TM and © 2019 Monte Cook Games, LLC.
Monte Cook Games updated their fan use license to specifically prohibit use of their materials in Google Docs, so I’m reproducing my adaptation of Numenera using Into the Odd rules as a blog post. See the summary at the original post, Decyphering Numenera & The Strange.
For the most part, use the rules from Into the Odd, which are available free online. The things this guide keeps from Numenera include….
- The setting, in-world terminology, and bestiary
- Characters as “I’m a [descriptor] [type] who [focuses]”
- Glaives, nanos, and jacks are still basically warriors, mages, and rogues
- Cyphers are common, and you can only carry a few
If you have a question about anything else not covered here, consult Into the Odd.
The Numenera as Arcana
Numenera is the term for weird technology that may as well be magic. As per the Into the Odd rules for “arcana,” these work automatically, though unwilling targets may get to make a save to resist effects other than attack damage. If you try to use them in an unexpected way (like using a heat ray to thaw a frozen ally), make a WIL save or something bad happens (like frying your friend).
There are a few types of numenera. Artifacts can be used repeatedly (though you may want to use the depletion rules from Numenera, p. 298). Cyphers are single-use only, and limited to 2 carried at once before they start interacting unpredictably. When you attempt to pick up more cyphers than you can carry, or whenever you roll a save or take damage while carrying more cyphers than your limit, something bad happens. (Refer to your favorite magic catastrophe table from another game, or to “Cypher Dangers,” Numenera p. 279.) Oddities (not to be confused with the same term in the Into the Odd followup, Electric Bastionland) are small curiosities without rules mechanics or sometimes even any obvious uses. Esoteries are basically magic spells, but can be thought of here as arcana that are a part of you.
Make numenera as you would make arcana in Into the Odd, and/or take examples directly from Numenera books. To the extent anything from Numenera may need rules converted….
- Anything that would restore points to a pool restores points to an ability (Might = Strength; Speed = Dexterity; Intellect = Willpower).
- Anything that does 1–4 damage does d6 damage; anything that does 5–6 damage does d8 damage; anything that does more does d10 damage.
- Anything that reduces damage impairs it (reducing its attack to d4), and anything that improves damage enhances it (increasing its attack to d12).
- Anything that ignores any armour ignores all armour.
- Anything that improves rolling odds should just let you roll an extra die and take the better result.
Identifying found numenera and figuring how how they work may require characters to experiment, and/or save WIL to avoid setting them off. Since cyphers are single-use only and given out like candy, consider just telling players what they do after they spend awhile inspecting them (regardless of whether the cypher is listed as “anoetic” or “occultic”).
Follow advancement rules from Into the Odd (p. 8). In addition, all characters can increase their cypher carrying capacity by 1 at levels 3 (expert) and 5 (master).
Descriptors are terms that help define your character. You might find the “link to the starting adventure” handy from the Numenera/Strange rules, but other associated rules can be ignored. Each descriptor provides two benefits:
- Boost an ability. If you’re tough, you should have good STR. If you’re charming, you should have good WIL. If you’re swift, you should have good DEX. Swap your highest ability into the one that best matches your descriptor, and then raise it to 12 or add +1 to it.
- Get an occasional bonus. Once per session, when your descriptor seems like it should obviously help you, roll an extra d12 and take the better result, or make an enemy roll twice and take the worse result.
Each player creates, chooses, or rolls a d20 for a descriptor.
Types are more traditionally known as character classes. Each starts with a unique benefit, and gains an additional benefit for every level of experience (including the first level).
Glaives (warriors) can equip 2 bulky items without suffering fatigue. Choose 1 each level:
- When you roll for HP gain, reroll anything lower than 4.
- Gain a maneuver you perform on attacks with a suitable type of weapon (e.g., knock down with blunt weapons).
Nanos (mages) can carry a third cypher. Choose 1 each level:
- Increase cypher carrying capacity by 1.
- Gain a new esotery of tier equal to or below your level.
Jacks (rogues) start with a non-combat skill – something that the average person couldn’t do it at all without proper training, or something that anyone could do, but you roll twice and pick the best result on saves with it. Between expeditions, you can replace any non-combat skill with another. Choose 1 each level:
- Gain another non-combat skill
- Gain a maneuver you perform on attacks with a specific weapon (e.g., disarm with my mother’s sword).
- Choose a new esotery of any tier below your level (or Hedge Magic, even at the start of the game).
A focus offers a considerable special ability, or a few minor special abilities. Unlike in Numenera, foci here do not offer more advancement options. Also unlike in Numenera, foci here offer exactly what they sound like they offer right away, rather than making you wait several sessions before your character who “rides the lightning” can actually ride lightning.
The foci in Numenera sound cool and evocative. Let players roll randomly or choose based on the names alone, and then ask them what they think that sounds like it should do. Then come up with some rules to make it do that. Here are d30 examples – If you don’t have a d30, roll a d4 -1 for the tens place, and a d10 for the ones place.
- Bears a Halo of Fire. You are wreathed in flame. Make d6 fire attacks (melee or thrown); get 3 armour vs. heat. Slathering your saliva on gear makes it fireproof enough to equip for a day.
- Carries a Quiver. Shots with a bow are either possible or impossible for you, never impaired. You can often describe a trick shot to enhance a bow attack.
- Commands Mental Powers. You can read minds and transmit your thoughts. Target can save WIL to push you out.
- Controls Beasts. Unintelligent beasts must save WIL or follow your commands.
- Controls Gravity. Dramatically increase or decrease gravity in a spot you can see, roughly a square yard in size.
- Crafts Illusions. Conjure one mirage at a time, fairly simple but lifelike. Onlookers might save WIL to disbelieve unlikely images.
- Crafts Unique Objects. Describe one project at a time, with GM approval. You finish building it after your next expedition (if a cypher) or next advance in level (if an artifact).
- Employs Magnetism. Pull non-bulky ferrous objects to you; anyone holding one can save STR to resist. You save DEX to catch one without getting hit.
- Entertains. You are a master of disguise and mimicry, an expert storyteller, and a flawless liar. Sapient beings save WIL or are affected by your performance in a plausible way of your choosing.
- Exists in Two Places at Once. There are two of you. You share thoughts, abilities, and HP, and 1 action between you in combat. Each version of you carries its own equipment.
- Exists Partially Out of Phase. You only take or deal physical damage on even attack rolls. Save WIL or DEX to pass through solid objects without getting stuck in them, taking damage.
- Explores Dark Places. Find your way around easily in darkness, and become practically invisible in deep shadow.
- Fights with Panache. Combine damaging attacks with maneuvers you come up with on the fly, like disarming, tripping, or blinding with dirt. Targets can save an appropriate ability to resist. If you are a glaive or jack and take a maneuver when you gain a level, targets take the worst of 2 saves to resist it.
- Focuses Mind Over Matter. Move objects with your mind as easily as with your body. Save WIL to exert extreme force without taking WIL damage.
- Fuses Flesh and Steel. +1 defense, and built-in melee and ranged weapons (choose one at d6 attack, the other at d8).
- Howls at the Moon. Transform into beast (+3 STR, +2 DEX, d6 attack) for the entire full moon. Whenever you first take STR damage since you last rested, you can transform to automatically pass your save vs. critical damage. Save WIL to avoid bestial instincts or to change back (so long as the moon is not full).
- Hunts with Great Skill. Choose one quarry at a time that you can see or that left signs of passage. You can track them unerringly, and after taking at least a turn to track them or study their movements, enhance attacks against them.
- Leads. When encountering strangers as a group, you’re always considered in the lead for the purposes of making a WIL save to avoid hostilities. In combat, you can use your action to enhance an ally’s attack or impair the next attack against them.
- Lives in the Wilderness. While in wilderness environments, you can’t be surprised, and can identify medicinal plants and moss, blend in with natural backdrops, and gain benefits of rest with just a few moments to catch your breath.
- Masters Defense. You have +1 armour, and can grant +1 armour to anyone you spend your action defending.
- Masters Weaponry. In your hands, d6 weapons attack at d8, and d8 weapons attack at d10.
- Murders. When you attack an enemy unaware of your presence up close, deal damage directly to their STR, bypassing HP.
- Rages. When you save vs. critical damage, gain +1 armour, and enhance both your melee attacks and all attacks against you for the rest of the fight.
- Rides the Lightning. Conjure an electrical charge that you can use to propel yourself with great, gliding leaps, or to shock targets you touch, stunning them unless they save STR.
- Talks to Machines. Touch a computerized device to interface with it. You may need to save WIL to avoid backfire if trying to bypass security measures or run against designed functions.
- Wears a Sheen of Ice. +1 armour, and +3 armour vs. cold. You can also shape it into a d6 weapon (melee, thrown).
- Wields Power with Precision. Increase your attack die by 1 step with numenera, including esoteries.
- Wields Two Weapons at Once. On your turn, attack 2 enemies, or take best of both rolls vs. 1 enemy.
- Works Miracles. Restore d6 HP to someone as an action, or d6 STR to someone once a day, given time to concentrate.
- Works the Back Alleys. Unlock any mundane lock (given time and tools), lift items off others subtly and effortlessly, and recognize the signs of career criminals intuitively.
Starter packages are based on Into the Odd (p. 5), but replace any specific unnatural abilities – which may overlap with foci – with random Into the Odd arcana or Numenera artifacts. Since your descriptor or type could potentially adjust your abilities or HP, figure out that stuff first.
Guns aren’t part of Numenera’s equipment list, but it doesn’t really break the setting if you say they’re available in starter packages. Alternatively, you can replace these with bows and crossbows if preferred.
Starting numenera for every character include an oddity (Numenera, p. 314) and as many randomly selected cyphers as they can carry (2 by default, 3 for nanos), in addition to anything in their starter package.
Nanos and jacks can choose to gain esoteries (basically, spells) each level. Nanos can choose from tiers equal to or lower than their level; jacks can choose from only those lower than their level. Since there are only 5 levels in Into the Odd, this makes tier 6 esoteries unattainable. Since those are so powerful they should probably be rather large artifacts, that may suit you just fine, but as an alternative, you might give access to tier 6 at level 5 (master), or devise criteria for a sixth player character level (e.g., completing a special quest, nurturing a business or military force to a certain size, or successfully rebuilding and fortifying a community).
Activating an esotery inflicts damage to you equal to its tier -1. This means that tier 1 esoteries are free, as are esoteries phrased as ongoing effects (because they do not need to be activated). Damage in excess of HP applies to your WIL.
- Hedge Magic. Cause a small, relatively harmless “magical” effect – e.g., change color of items, levitate small things, mend broken items, prepare food, etc.
- Onslaught. d6 ranged attack, or d6 mental attack (ignores armour, applies to WIL after HP reach 0).
- Push. Mentally shove a target no bigger than you in any direction if they fail a STR save.
- Scan. Get basic info beyond what your mundane senses can tell you about the immediate area (e.g., “there’s an object made of wood in that box”) or one target (e.g., “the creature is weak but quick, with poisonous fangs”).
- Ward. You have 1 armour as long as you wear no armour.
- Adaptation. Adapt yourself or someone you touch to a hostile environment for 24 hours.
- Flash. d6 attack to everyone in arm’s length of a spot you see.
- Hover. Float off the ground. Must propel yourself by pushing off walls or on the wind.
- Mind Reading. Detect surface thoughts from a chosen target for 1 minute.
- Stasis. Target no bigger than you is immobilized and made invulnerable for a minute unless they pass a WIL save.
- Barrier. Create a 10ft x 10ft wall with 10 HP for 2 minutes. Can only create one wall at a time.
- Countermeasures. Save WIL to cancel a numenera effect or esotery for d6 rounds.
- Energy Protection. Gain or grant 5 armour against a chosen type of energy for several minutes, only one type at a time.
- Sensor. Create an immobile, invisible sensor nearby as an action, and sense through that point as an action.
- Targeting Eye. Increase your attack die by 1 step when using numenera and esoteries that make physical or energy attacks (e.g., Onslaught’s ranged attack, but not its mental attack).
- Transdimensional Weapon. Infuse a weapon you hold with energy, allowing it to reroll 1’s on attacks and affect transdimensional targets. Only works on one weapon at a time.
- Invisibility. Turn invisible until an hour has passed, you dismiss the effect, or you do something to draw attention to yourself (like attacking) – whichever comes first.
- Mind Control. Skip your turn to force a target to follow your command on their turn if they fail WIL. They won’t remember anything they did under your control.
- Regeneration. Restore d4 STR or DEX to yourself or someone you touch. Save WIL with each use; on a failure, no STR or DEX is gained, but damage for use is still sustained.
- Reshape. Change the shape of inanimate matter up about 5 cubic feet in volume. An action gets you a rough change; an hour might get you a bridge.
- Slay. A target with 10 WIL or less must save WIL or die.
- Absorb Energy. Consume a cypher, roll depletion on an artifact (if you’re using that rule), drain power from a machine, or succeed a WIL save defending against an esotery to regain d10 WIL. If this would exceed your maximum WIL, lose the difference from your STR and save against critical damage.
- Dust to Dust. Disintegrate an inanimate object that is smaller than you.
- Knowing the Unknown. Tap into the datasphere and get the answer to one question it could answer.
- Teleportation. Teleport anywhere on this planet you’ve ever been. Save WIL for yourself and each additional target you touch to bring them with you; any who fail the save miss the destination by d4 quarters of a mile.
- True Senses. You can see in darkness, and are never fooled by illusions. (This does not need to be activated – it just works.)
- Control Weather. Adjust weather in the immediate area. Use an action in subsequent turns to initiate a severe effect (lightning for d8 attack ignoring armour, winds that force STR save vs. being thrown, fog that impairs vision, etc.).
- Move Mountains. Cause enough force to topple a building. Save WIL to avoid unintended damage or directions.
- Traverse the Worlds. Teleport to other planets or dimensions, to a location you know exists. Save WIL to avoid missing the destination.
- Usurp Cypher. Use this once ever and sacrifice a cypher to replace this esotery with one that does whatever the cypher did. Use the cypher’s level to determine its tier for purposes of HP cost of the esotery.
By default, you can assume that NPCs and creatures have 10 in each ability (or 15 or 5 for anything they’re particularly good or bad at), 3 HP, a d6 attack, and some motive or drive.
If you want to convert creatures from Numenera more closely, give them….
- 10 in each ability, +/– their level for things they’re naturally very good or very bad at
- 3 + their level HP
- 0–3 armour, roughly matching armour from Numenera
- d6 attack if they do 1–4 damage … d8 if 5–6 … d10 if 7+
Margr, level 2 (Numenera, p. 244)
Roving bands of pillaging, goat-like abhumans
13 STR, 13 DEX, 13 WIL (they do most things as level 3)
5 HP, 1 armour (leather, hide, or piecemeal)
d6 attack (spears, axes)
Chirog, level 4 (Numenera, p. 235)
Alien creatures that feed on flesh and hate numenera
10 STR, 17 DEX, 10 WIL (they climb as if level 7)
7 HP, 3 armour (thick natural plating)
d8 attack (bite), or hold to immobilize if target fails to save STR
Dread Destroyer, level 10 (Numenera, p. 239)
A massive war machine with organic innards
20 STR, 18 DEX, 10 WIL (Speed defense as level 8 due to size)
13 HP, 3 armour, treat as a detachment
d20 attack vs. all in area up to a mile away (missiles)
d12 attack vs. all in area up close (electric jolt)
Remember: Into the Odd is a complete game even without all these extra rules. These rules are just meant to add some flavor and get more use out of your Numenera collection. Feel free to excise what you don’t need, and get in touch if you have any feedback.
This is a fan work only and not officially endorsed by Monte Cook Games or Sooga Games. Featured image art is TM and © 2019 Monte Cook Games, LLC, used under the Monte Cook Games Fan Use Policy.